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Friday, 27 June 2008

Collective Critical Censorship

By Lia of the Yum Yum Café blog

Liawinnerbadge Friday afternoon is the time in the week I am mostly likely to get frazzled. Struggling to get away from the office early, rushing over to the local grocery store to do the week’s shopping, I inevitably hit some wall where time stops. I’ll be driving like an idiot, a speed junky, and then get caught in a traffic jam. Or, I’ll be running up and down the grocery store isles with programmed efficiency only to stand in the line up with the cashier-in-training.

Like today. The new cashier is slow, even by the standards of other cashiers-in-training. She seems to make mistakes with every customer she serves. The customers in the line up wince every time she starts apologizing and explaining why she’s made another mistake and what she has to do to fix the situation. It has to do with making retroactive the information in the cash machine through some complex process she is not able to master (e.g., pushing the cancel key). I can hardly keep my frustration down.

Five customers ahead of me, an old woman is being bumped from behind by the shopping cart manned by a five-year-old boy. The little boy very purposely pushes the cart back and forth with just the exact nuance of pressure and rhythmic certainty to annoy the old woman without actually hurting her. The woman turns around and asks the boy to stop bumping the shopping cart into her.

This mild reprimand produces no results. Contrarily, if anything, the boy bumps the cart into her back more forcibly. The old woman then turns and addresses the youngster’s mother. “Could you please tell your son to stop, it is really annoying?”

The mother looks at the old woman as though she is looking at (through) someone from another planet. Disdainfully, she replies, “No, I won’t tell him to stop. He is being raised to be critical of authority.” The mother gives this explanation, somewhat smugly, as if this “being critical of authority” is a good thing.

We in the line up, who have been watching this confrontation, are momentarily frozen in our censorship of the child’s behaviour and the mother’s response.

Standing behind the mother and child, a young man dressed in Gothic punk attire, with dyed hair, a multitude of piercings and tattoos, watches on with apparent disinterest. In the moment when all of us are standing there speechless, he takes out a bottle of liquid honey from his grocery cart, removes the lid, and then proceeds to pour the whole bottle of honey over the mother’s head.

It takes a while for the woman to realise what is happening. As a drop of honey falls down from her forehead to her nose, she turns to the punk and screams at him, “What the **ck are you doing? Are you crazy? You can’t do that!” The punk looks at her boldly and says, “Yes, I can. I was raised to be critical of authority.”

He drops the empty bottle of honey into his cart and runs out of the shop. The woman yells at the cashier to call the police. She is going to have the punk arrested. She looks up at all of us in the line up, “You are witnesses to the crime!”

A man in the line speaks up, “I’m sorry, but I think you will find that none of us saw a thing.” Collectively, we all nod our head in agreement.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I wish I could have been there. I wouldn't have seen a thing either. Great account of something we have all wanted to do at one time or another. Thanks.

Just loved your 'sweet' story, thanks for sharing.


Normally I am not on the side of the "punk" but this time I would like to give him a medal for pointing out to that woman what our lives would be like if we were all raised to "Be critical of authority".

We would all be huddled in our homes afraid to step out the door to a crowd ,or should I say,MOB who were raised like that little boy...

It was a well told and interesting story.Excellent discussion starter.

I loved this story of poetic justice. How I would have loved to have seen that. Obviously the mother missed the point of the young man's actions. Some people think they are the center of the Universe and they are the only ones with rights. As Nancy said, "well told", Lia.

So wonderful when the potential consequences of one's action hit so immediately and so clearly!


I would have given him a round of applause!!


I have a serious question to ask.

You wrote that the woman who the punk poured the honey on said," What the **ck are you doing?"

My question is : Is that starred word pronounced the same in German as it is in English? How about French? Spanish?

In other words is that a universal word or does the pronunciation change by language?

I'm sure there will come a time when that mother wishes she could command some authority with her son. But doesn't she want him to grow up and care about other people? You told this story well. I love the punk's sense of irony.

Ooh! Isn't society powerful when somebody doesn't conform!

God bless the kid with the piercings and dyed hair!

I wish I not only had the courage to take action, but could think as quickly as the young man did.

Dear Nancy, There really isn't a f-word in German. Some younger fold use the English word. That is probably a side effect of watching American movies and listening to rap music. Germans in general don't swear much at all. They do rant and rave, but not with swear words. When I was in Toronto recently and around high school students (my hotel was next door to a large high school), I was rather surprised at how the teenagers spoke.

Travelnoma, many parents are raising their children to be "individualists" where I live. The fact that these little individualists have to go to school and behave in such a manner that they are universally shunned by their fellow individualists and their overwrought teachers, doesn't deter the parents.

I would have applauded. I am applauding. I have one grandchild raised with a lax hand and I shun her ...what a sad thing.

So hurrah to all. :)

I would have shook that young man's hand! That mother reminded me of an acquaintance of mine who didn't understand what discipline meant for her children. Her kids put me crazy. Needless to say, they weren't invited to play at our house often. If I'd been there she would have got a piece of my mind, too!

What a delight! Wouldn't it be neat to know how life goes for that guy? And the kid, too, for that matter! :)

Hmmmmm. I'd like to think a little further about the original statement the mother made: "He is being raised to be critical of authority."

I think the mom incorrectly used the phrase "critical of authority." I think she may have meant "disdainful discounting of other people's rights." What the kid was doing wasn't being critical of authority, it was plain old B flat modeling the unaware and uncaring behavior of his mom.

A subtle difference, but if the mom was truly raising a kid to be critical of authority, the kid would be questioning his mom, and her lack of concern about other people.

Sometimes I feel that if the good citizens of the US were honestly trained to be critical of authority, the Bush/Cheney/Rove Western Axis of Evil would not have come to power. If we had questioned the Fox-fed information coming out of that regime, we may have been better able to avoid the terrific mess we are in right now.

One can be critical of authority and correct in doing so. It is the mom's lack of awareness, proven by her uninformed use of words, that her son emulates.

The punk reminds me of Coyote, the Trickster. Let's hope that his action (which I wholeheartedly approve) opens a door for the mom (and witnesses) to contemplate the difference between being critical and just plain being ignorant.

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